remembering depression and redemption

In late October 2007, I walked out of a doctor's office with prescriptions in hand for a fast-acting anti-anxiety medication, an anti-depressant, and a non-habit-forming sleep aid.  My boy was born late at night on a fine Monday, the 24th day of the previous month.  The night after his birth, I lay in a tiny labor and delivery recovery room in a body that was naturally exhausted from nine months of carrying a child, followed by the work that is childbirth, but completely unable to find sleep. The lights, even turned off, seemed to buzz.  My husband’s always-quiet sleeptime breathing seemed unreasonably loud.  The sounds from the hall, not to be even noticed from the place of deep slumber, dinned far too loudly in my sleepless state.  I didn’t sleep that whole night; or the next.

I didn’t sleep for weeks.  Instead my body went through a pattern of anxiety like a symphonic movement.  First there’d be a swell of nameless, faceless anxiety that would start as a pounding in my chest.  Then a hot flush of fire would creep up my neck into my face and out into the tops of my arms.  My brain would register the panic and my legs would begin to move and shake, while my hand would tap my thigh in a pounding rhythm as if to beat out the time signature of the anxiety.  This happened every night.  All night.  For too many nights.

I couldn’t eat.  I breastfed Little BigMan, so eating was crucial, but eating became somehow repugnant in a body staging some strange revolt against the very things it needed most.  I would nibble at the little I could stomach.  He got it all, and then some.  I lost 30 pounds in fewer days than that.

The anxiety started vague and nameless, but the nature of anxiety is that, left to itself, it begets anxiety.  And then it learns to name itself and to build on the foundation it’s laid.  “I feel anxious, too anxious, to sleep or eat” becomes:
I’m afraid I won’t ever be able to sleep again.
I’m afraid I’ll starve the baby because I’m not eating.
I’m afraid Brilliant Beauty is losing ‘Mommy’.
I’m afraid God is punishing me.
I’m afraid that my faith is not strong enough for this.
I’m afraid I’m going crazy.
I’m afraid I will die feeling like this.

And then, a terrifying resolve and relinquishment of hope: “If this is how everyday will feel I would rather fall asleep and never wake up.”

That was it.  The moment I said that my husband heard me, and I heard me.  And we called the doctor.

The day I walked out of the doctor’s office was the first day I ever came here, where Ma Luffin Mayun and I have escaped to this weekend.  With no way of knowing what the month after our son’s birth would hold, we had pre-planned in late summer of 2007 to come here with our dearest friends.  Whether it was crazy or courageous who knows, but regardless, on that late October day our two families loaded ourselves into vehicles and drove here.  That very first night, I slept; and then the next.  And every night after that.  Though the details of the time spent in relationship and in beginning recovery those two days and two nights of that Fall six years ago I hold too dear and sacred to share, they became a course-changer for me and, now I know, foundationally impacted the rest of my life to follow.

The Bible is broken down into “books”, and those books are, of course, broken down into chapters and verses.  In the book called 1 Samuel God’s people, the Israelites, are beaten down by a people called the Philistines that have been a looming threat.  Moreover, the very pinnacle item signifying the presence of God with the Israelites called “the Ark of the Covenant” is stolen away.  Through the course of the book, we see that ultimately the Israelites, with God’s strength and guidance, rise up and beat back the Philistines, and the Ark of the Covenant is returned to them.  When this happens Samuel does something.  He puts up a rock at the site – the place of this turning of the tide.  It’s called an ebenezer, from two Hebrew words put together that mean “help” and “stone”.  When he put the stone in place he said, “Thus far, the Lord has helped us.”  From that point the entire region around this help-stone became known as Ebenezer.

A place of remembrance.
Of what was both lost and regained.
A marker that reminds, “thus far, the Lord has helped us”.

I prayed constantly to be freed from the anxiety (and the depression that walks hand-in-hand with it), even before Little Big Man was born because I could sense it looming as early as seven months into my pregnancy.  When it came and stayed despite my best faith-efforts, I felt like my God had removed himself from me.  Six years later, I know now that nothing could be farther from the truth.  It would take a thousand blogs to contain the ways he showed up for me and for our family from before the first moment I ever prayed.  The evidence of his presence during the breakdown and the rebuilding is empirical and no longer a point of argument for me.  I know he was there.

I could weep now in the remembrance, but no longer would the tears be over the pain.  They come because of the intimacy I gained with him; in the hurt and in the healing.  In my disbelief that he was there, he was closer still.  And he stayed and stroked my hair and put his hand on my chest and whispered in my ear.  Day in and day out, meticulously and vigilantly.  He did it without me being cognizant of it.  And then one day I could see it.  

So this place we’ve escaped to, built onto a carved-out-of-rock mountainside lot, constructed out of wood and stone, has become an Ebenezer.  I cannot come here and not feel it is somehow fused with my whole person; body, mind, and spirit.  I thank God for KB and JK for ever telling me of such a place, and for EH whose place it is and whose generosity to the strangers we are to her has changed my life eternally by leaving an indelible mark.

And I thank God for himself because thus far, he has helped us.
Here are a few posts written during the time of the great sadness, my efforts at accounting for what was truer than how I felt - a discipline it never hurts to practice.
Counting Up My Currency
Accounting 102
Taking It To The Bank
This Is Not That


  1. Anonymous11:04:00 PM

    Jessi, this is beautiful and I can't help but believe that it will minister to someone.


  2. Anonymous1:33:00 PM

    You expressed the journey with such well-chosen words, Blondie. I could so relate. Christ has been so real to us along this path called life.

    I love you dearly.


    1. I can talk about it because you did, Daddy. ILY.

  3. Lovely, Jessi! You ARE an inspiration to so many! I love you!
    Aunt Joanne

    1. My goodness. I love YOU, Joanne!

  4. I never realized how your experience paralleled mine. You told me of some of it but I never knew of the "burning sensation". I had that and no one could explain it. The pounding in the chest, the feeling of fear when I was not afraid. And then, that morning at the altar when the guest speaker laid his hand on my back as I knelt there and whispered, "God has not forgotten you daughter". I clung to that like a life preserver because that was EXACTLY what I felt! As though God had forgotten me. Thank you for putting into words what I could not.

    1. Sheri, your willingness to answer my phone call and be candid and open with me meant more than you know. It made me feel so much less alone or crazy or lost, and feeling less those things eventually also made me feel less afraid. You’ll always be linked in my heart and mind to my recovery. Always.


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